Obviously, the news isn’t good of late: Agricultural prices are falling back to more normal levels and we’re all having to make adjustments. Corn prices are going back to 2010 levels, livestock to 2013 levels and oil to 2007 levels.
But if you’re no-tilling and have managed your balance sheet wisely of late, it’s probably not time to panic, says Jay Franklin, who no-tills row crops and wheat near Vinita, Okla., and works as a vice president at First National Bank of Vinita.
Franklin told attendees at the No-Till on the Plains Winter Conference this week he converted to no-till during the tough 1980s because he really didn’t have a choice. As he looked at farm expense levels from 1977 to 1984 and compared that to a similar number of years no-tilling, he saved $31 an acre with no-till compared to his previous conventional/conservation tillage system.
“And that was back when glyphosate was under patent and diesel fuel was very cheap,” he says. “I’ve seen some research that says the advantage is in the $20s, but I don’t quite believe that because glyphosate costs are 1/8 of what it was then, diesel costs are four times higher, and labor is higher.
“So I can’t believe my $31 is any weaker. But at $31, and you take a couple of thousand acres, that’s some pretty serious coins.”
You can read our 2012 article about Jay’s conversion to no-till in No-Till Farmer by clicking here.
As margins tighten, Franklin says it might be wise for no-tillers to look at any part of their operations that have inefficiencies, noting that it’s easy to get sloppy when surplus cash is rolling in.
“There’s been a lot of equipment bought in my part of the country that, in my opinion, isn’t critical or even necessary, but it was a place to stash some cash and defer some tax,” he says. “I’ve seen it happen more with cattlemen than the crop farmers. We’ve got some cattlemen where things are tighter than they should be because of some conspicuous consumption on their end. The crop production people are much more cautious.”
As for the farm economy, Franklin says the current slump is different than what occurred in the 1980s because farmers were short on equity, “and there’s too much money out there now, so interest rates can’t go anywhere. Interest is still dirt cheap.”
It was another nice crowd for the No-Till on the Plains Winter Conference in Salina, Kan., this week as the event reached its 20th anniversary. You can see all the Twitter posts for the event at #notill2016.
Also, many of you who attended stopped by our booth to tell us how much you appreciate Dryland No-Tiller e-newsletter and No-Tiller Farmer magazine. Your sentiments are much appreciated and as the new year begins we’ll work even harder to make our publications more useful to you.